Both the expressions 探望 and 看 are, in an appropriate context, translated as "to visit". I haven't been able to figure out the difference between the two. When does one use 探望, when does one use 看?

  • 探望 means that the person you are visiting is in a bad situation; 看 is more general. For instance, 'visiting a doctor' is always 看医生 and never 探望医生; 'visiting a patient in the hospital' is usually 探望病人. – user58955 Aug 31 '14 at 15:15

「探望」has a tendency to describe visits which "aims to make somebody happy or feel better", like visiting a relative/close friend whom you haven't visited for quite a while (not required), or visiting somebody in a bad situation (e.g. injured/ill). In this case, both「探望」and「看」can be used.

In most other cases, using「看」may be more appropriate, for example: to visit a doctor (due to sickness) (as mentioned by @user58955) (note, it can be correct to say「探望醫生」when you are visiting a doctor to thank one for healing you, for example), to visit an exhibition. There might be exceptions but I can't think of any now.

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